Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A new rig and a much changed shack

It's difficult to believe that it has been almost four years since my last blog post. Some of you could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps I had given up the hobby of amateur radio. But no. I just got busy with other things, mainly with Mythical Ireland, which is my one-man organisation dedicated to the ancient history, mythology and archaeology of Ireland. 

In fact, since my last blog post here, I have published TWO books and written another one and a half! I have been busy writing another, which will be my eighth book (that's the "half"!). Six have been published so far. One, written between 2018 and 2019, is awaiting publication. 

My new Icom IC-7300 on the shack desk with Sheunemann Morse key and LDG autotuner.

My website, Mythical Ireland, was relaunched in late 2017. In July of 2018, I discovered a huge late Neolithic henge monument close to Newgrange in the famous Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site here in the Boyne Valley. So as you can imagine, things were very busy. That discovery, dubbed 'Dronehenge', was featured in news reports all over the world. I was in the New York Times and Washington Post, the story was on the BBC and in newspapers all over Europe. I appeared on television on National Geographic, Channel 4 and RTÉ. 

There was less time for radio, and although I maintained small levels of activity over the past few years, I did not have the time nor the energy for those big dxpedition pile-ups! Besides, I have 323 current entities worked in a decade on the air, and am very happy with that.

Recent radio activity has been much more relaxed. I greatly enjoy using FT8, and with my small antenna farm this mode is ideal for making long-distance QSOs with modest antennas and low power. But I also very much love to use CW and enjoy a bit of casual ragchewing when I get the opportunity. Phone contacts are few and far between these days, but mainly because the sunspot numbers are low and there is not much voice activity on the HF bands.

The new-look shack. There are fewer radios, but it's tidier and nicer!

The hexbeam was damaged in a storm over a year ago and I have postponed repairing it because I did not have the time or commitment for it. However, I am hoping to get it back in the air soon.

As a result of a major library/office/shack renovation, I had to downsize the radio shack. So I removed some VHF radios and sold my Icom IC-756PRO which I replaced with an Icom IC-7300. This radio is a work of beauty and fits on the desk just nicely. I have enjoyed using it so far. The Acom 1000 hadn't been used in a long number of months and I was glad today to find that it is working!

At the weekend, I added a 20m dipole to my nested vees. So now I have dipoles for 80m, 40m, 30m and 20m. The Antron 99 works very well on 17m, 12m and 10m. On FT8 last week, I was called by two Japanese stations while CQing on 17 metres with 20 watts.

I am not planning to update this blog too regularly, simply because of time restraints. I work full-time (based at home because of Covid-19, which suits fine because I don't have to commute to Dublin!) and Mythical Ireland activities are keeping me very busy outside of that.

But I wanted to let you know that I have not quit the hobby. As with all hobbies, sometimes life gets in the way. And that's fine. I consider myself privileged to hold an amateur radio licence and I love the hobby. 

Hopefully I might work you on the bands soon!

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